Emerged Tanvi like a storm from her room, “What is it that I am reading now Aakash? Why do I have to see this after so many years….It is just unbelievable! I did not expect this from you.…”
Tanvi’s voice had turned to that familiar husky one that always showed with absolute certainty that she was undoubtedly perturbed and terribly disturbed over something. But this time the apprehensiveness and the hostility was different from the usual, something which the bull’s-eye of her latest victim, her husband, Aakash, failed to recognize. Many a time he has seen her in various moods-at times irritated, sometimes frustrated and sometimes tired. Over the period of years he had learnt to deal with her irrational phobias and had got habituated to her obsessive need to “depict” her family (their family) as the irrational embodiment of textbook dignity and respectability. All this with the assumption that the rest of the world, and more particularly their neighbours were the unceasing judges of an uninterrupted reality show encapsulating every single moment of their family! But this was totally different. There was a serious apprehension in that muddled bunch of enraged and offended words, well beyond those daily superficial anxieties.
So Aakash did what every man learns to do when faced with brazen bafflement, thanks to the rites of passage from boyhood to adult manhood – he maintained his calm. Maintaining an unruffled and collected composure, asked Aakash in that cultured steady voice of his, “Hey Tanvi, what’s it that you are talking about and why are you so agitated?”
“Now, now Aakash, don’t put on an innocent face and don’t tell me that you do not recognise this letter (or whatever piece is left of it) written by you ..... I very well can recognise your writing ... go ahead and look at it.... now tell me!” Aakash was taken aback by this crescendo of agitation. But the baleful-looking tattered piece of paper in Tanvi’s out stretched hand caught him unawares. No matter what it was going to disclose, that flabby, yellowing flimsy evidence was, in all its raw actuality, an undeniable rationale of his wife’s rage and exasperation. Tanvi was now fully armoured for the ensuing confrontation, and that faded yellow archaic-looking “letter” was challenging Aakash to face the consequences of the truth which the letter revealed!
Dauntlessly exhibiting a cool masquerade while every fibre of his body directed him to pull it from his wife with nervous turmoil, Aakash casually took the “letter”. Glancing at a part of it, his heart at once jumped with chivalrous delight! Glancing a little more at the letter, his dear old friend, Experience, overshadowed that distinguished light of relief, and his heart plummeted. It is then that he understood that uncanny quality in Tanvi’s voice. It was one of sad deception and betrayal. The cool appearance melted away as Aakash stood transfixed, staring at his own handwriting, shivering with cold sweat, as his thoughts drifted very far away. Aakash had absolutely no idea as to how to fight this war. And withdrawal– so unexceptionally injurious to self-esteem but effective in desperate situations – was not an option at all now. He had to fight this battle out.
The precursor of this bizarre turn of events – that harmless looking piece of paper was a page from an old diary, the broken corner of which still had the year of diary. Yes this scrap was from a diary of thirteen years ago. Exactly 5 years before Aakash had tied the knot with Tanvi. Yes, it was a love letter, but of a different kind… one that was written by him to his future wife, whoever she happened to be; because Aakash had still not met Tanvi at that time! At that point of his life, he had felt the fresh enthusiasm and excitement brewed up by his relatives and parents as they talked over his wedding arrangements with increasing frequency. The very thought and image of the unknown girl he would one day start living with...seemed very romantic and enticing. Until one day, enraptured by the excitement of recently found romanticism, he decided to write a love letter to his unknown would-be soul mate. To substantiate this strange act of his, he told himself that this would be perhaps the only chance for him to actually write a love letter .His contention was that every boy should write at least one love letter in his lifetime! In addition to this, how wonderfully exciting and romantic it would be when he showed this to his future wife later on during his magical married life.. What better present could he give to that special better half who lay waiting for him in the near future- The romance of his youth…and that baffling, pure love…. ‘This is purely movie stuff,” thought he happily. Thinking thus he settled down cosily in a couch and penned a letter to his future lady love, pouring out his heart and soul and surrendering himself to the love of his future wife. He had fallen head over heels in love with his future lady love. Well, with the passage of time, he tore away those three pages of the love letter and put them away in his “Important papers” carton.
And then, like several other romantic escapades of childhood whose idiosyncrasies extend onto one’s youth, Aakash totally forgot about that letter. And when he married Tanvi five years later, those three pages of youthful chivalry lay waiting in the carton devoid of their forgotten magic. As time passed by, the “Important papers” carton increased to more than one box and hence the papers got shuffled into two boxes. This partition was executed very fast with hardly any time to carry it out in an orderly manner. Life and Time had ensured that “Just-Sentimental” replaced “Important” and the papers therein got hustled into the not frequently dusted corners of past significance. Yet, when treated with disdain, the past carries enough force and lies waiting with vindictive agony at some corner of future. And that is exactly what happened. What should have come as a pleasant delightful surprise to Tanvi, had rather shaken their calm, uneventful life into unnecessary disconcertment. The division of those once-important papers into two different boxes had split up the three pages of Aakash’s letter. The first two found shelter in one box while the last crap, the dormant protagonist of our bizarre love story landed into another one. Well, the last piece had caught Tanvi’s attention. With all the apprehension and baseless annoyance of Tanvi that Aakash could not wish away, he was not justified in holding her to be unreasonably blameable for the betrayal she felt on reading the last sentences of that “love letter”:
“…several are the nights I have dreamt of you and held you in my arms. There was this singing to the stars and my dancing with you on fragrant rivers. What a paradise you had created for me!
You are my rock, my Bard and my solid strength. Please be beside me forever and ever and ever..................
Yours to be soon and forever,
The reason for Tanvi’s behaviour was now clear to Aakash, as it appeared to be an emotional love letter to some girl before their marriage. Even if Tanvi was generous enough to understand his romantic feelings before his meeting with her, the fact that he had conveniently forgotten to make a mention of this enigmatic “Bard” of his all these years is clearly unacceptable... That too, despite those declarations of honesty and truthfulness...., he would keep this matter away from Tanvi was proof enough that this Bard of his was still not a thing of the past and was very much alive. Thanks to his irresponsible memory, this magical stuff that he had so carefully created on an intoxicating evening of romantic passion 13 years ago had returned to cast its evil spell. Whatever it was, it was no longer an innocent letter.
Aakash realized that he owed Tanvi an explanation for this letter. What Tanvi really needed… even more predominantly, what Aakash required were those first two pages of his tarnished innocence. Tanvi stood silently, simmering with flawed trust, wishing all this had never happened. Aakash’s stony silence threw her heart into an excruciating turbulence. Speak up … anything… she wished her fears would be baseless and wrong. But, alas it could not be! The hard proof that her husband was no common bore was an Aakash, whom she had never seen. He had never waxed articulate even during their honeymoon period. Is it not possible that Tanvi could be his Bard? Didn’t he feel any of that chivalrous himself with her? Or, was it that she had killed the old romantic Aakash? His silence was unbearable.
“So…now, can you care to explain?”
the short story 'Love Letter to My Dearest' continues here